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Dissimulated landscapes: Postcolonial method and the politics of space in southern Sri Lanka

Jazeel, T; (2013) Dissimulated landscapes: Postcolonial method and the politics of space in southern Sri Lanka. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space , 31 (1) pp. 61-79. 10.1068/d7411. Green open access

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Abstract

This paper puts forward a broadly postcolonial method for engaging with landscapes in South Asia, in this case southern Sri Lanka. It argues that, as valuable as the familiar theoretical and conceptual languages of Euro-American landscape geography are, they also risk concealing a range of different aesthetics, social formations, and experiences that unfold in the non-Euro-American landscape. They risk dissimulating the politics of places as they are produced and lived contextually. In the paper I work this argument through a critical engagement of the landscape architecture of Sri Lanka's most famous tropical-modernist architect, Geoffrey Bawa; I specifically focus on his favorite, intensely choreographed, view at the estate Lunuganga on Sri Lanka's south coast. As I show, while tools from the new cultural geography and beyond can help us to read this view as a classically modernist and apolitical landscape, a work of 'art for art's sake', it is only a radically contextual familiarization with Sri Lankan society, politics, and history that can also reveal the landscape's more subtle instantiation of a spatializing Sinhala-Buddhist hegemony. Indeed, I show how some of the familiar (Eurocentric) concept-metaphors that we might intuitively bring to a reading of this landscape-namely 'nature', 'religion', and 'subjectivity'-hold at arm's length particular kinds of landscape politics that emerge from differently textualized human relationships with the environment. The paper charts a method responsive to this particular landscape, and by doing so insists on the difficult task of retaining the singularity of landscapes positioned beyond the Euro-American staging grounds of the conceptual debates current within contemporary cultural geography.

Type: Article
Title: Dissimulated landscapes: Postcolonial method and the politics of space in southern Sri Lanka
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1068/d7411
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1068/d7411
Language: English
Additional information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page(http://www.uk.sagepub.com/aboutus/openaccess.htm).
Keywords: landscape, architecture, Sri Lanka, Geoffrey Bawa, postcolonial, Buddhism
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1393381
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